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Will Smith and director Antoine Fuqua’s anticipated slave drama “Emancipation” will film in New Orleans after the pair pulled production out of Georgia over the state’s new voting law.
New Orleans officials announced the move Tuesday afternoon and said it marks the first major movie production to cut ties with the Peach State after the approval of a bill critics say restricts voter access.
Local leaders said they anticipate other productions will follow suit.
“New Orleans is a welcoming city, and that’s a key part of why Will Smith and his production have joined us here in New Orleans,” city spokesperson Beau Tidwell said at a Tuesday news conference. “We’re glad to have them.”
Smith and Fuqua, both producers on the film, are the latest to depart Georgia over a controversial new voting law approved by the Republican-controlled state legislature last month. The law mainly focuses on early in-person and absentee voting, and would require residents seeking a mail-in ballot to provide their driver’s license or state ID, McClatchy News reported.
Under the law, some counties could also see fewer absentee ballot drop boxes.
President Joe Biden compared the law to racial segregation laws, calling it “Jim Crow in the 21st century.” Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp defended the legislation, saying it “makes it easy to vote and hard to cheat.”
Smith and Fuqua said they could not “in good conscience provide economic support” after the approval of what they described as “regressive voting laws.”
“The new Georgia voting laws are reminiscent of voting impediments that were passed at the end of Reconstruction to prevent many Americans from voting,” the pair said in a joint statement, according to WMAZ. “Regrettably, we feel compelled to move our film production work from Georgia to another state.”
“Emancipation” tells the true story of a man named Peter (played by Smith), an enslaved Black man who fled a Louisiana plantation after nearly being whipped to death, according to a synopsis from Deadline.
“He had to outwit cold-blooded hunters and the unforgiving swamps of Louisiana on a torturous journey north” before joining the Union Army, according to the outlet. “When Peter showed his bare back during an Army medical examination, photos were taken of the scars from a whipping delivered by an overseer on the plantation .... that nearly killed him.”
The film is set to stream on Apple TV and was originally budgeted at around $100 million, Tidwell said.
It was scheduled to begin filming in June.